The world will never be quite the same again. We’re all experiencing something none of us have ever seen before. It will get better, but it will undoubtedly affect the way we live our lives moving forward. At Envoy, the owners are doing everything they can to keep our team safe from the coronavirus by having us work from home. We’re all pretty comfortable with technology and have worked remotely occasionally, but it feels very different this time. For one, we’re ALL at home. In the past, when I’ve worked remotely for a day or two, everyone else was at the office. It was easy to reach out to the Envoy mother ship to get my questions answered. Now, with all of us away from the office, there is no Envoy mother ship.
There’s an adage that says the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. At Envoy, that’s certainly true. When we all get in a room together to brainstorm ideas, magic happens. When we’re all apart, it’s difficult to maintain that creative chemistry. To keep that magic going, we’re doing our best to maintain that all-in-one-room feeling by having daily all-staff video meetings. Seeing each other’s faces helps us stay connected and keeps us focused on making sure our clients continue to get the results and service they’ve come to expect from Envoy.
But it’s still just not quite the same. Here are some things I’ve learned after one week that have helped me adjust my workflow and prepare for what could become the new normal:
1. Communicate Effectively
There’s no substitute for meeting with someone face-to-face. Nonverbal communication often says more than the words you choose. With virtual meetings, it’s easy to lose that. People tell me I have a very emotive face and that I could be speaking in Greek, and everyone would still know exactly what I’m thinking. I don’t know if being “facially transparent” is a blessing or a curse, but I do know that it means just sending an email might not be enough.
Here at Envoy, we’ve recently started having daily standup status meetings to get everyone connected to what we’re working on for our clients that day. Since working remotely, we’ve turned to technology to replace those meetings. Initially, I was against using video for the meetings because I have embarrassingly frightful bedhead. I quickly realized that video is the only way to come close to those standup meetings. So, now I just wear a trapper hat and fire up the camera.
When you do have to communicate through email, Skype, Slack, text, etc., try to be as objective and thorough as possible. Humor rarely translates the way you think it will. And sarcasm? Even worse.
2. Maintain Office Hours
Working from home is great because you never have to leave the house. Perfect, right? Well, look at it from the other side — you also never get to leave the office. Combining your home with your work environment can lead you down a bad path if you’re not careful. You may start working longer hours, or odd hours of the night. On the other hand, you may find yourself working fewer hours and losing productivity. When you work at the office, your workday is innately framed by your commute to and from work. With that mental transition between home and work gone, it’s important to replace it artificially. Set a specific start and end time to your workday and stick to it whenever possible.
3. Stay focused
When you’re at home, you’re used to doing at-home stuff — cooking, listening to music, watching television, reading, or just relaxing. After a long day at work, all those things are valuable and vital to maintaining your work/life balance. It becomes challenging when all those at-home things are right in front of you while you’re trying to work. It’s a good idea to set aside a specific work area in your home that feels like your office setup as much as possible. Hide from the distractions.
4. Watch your time closely
The only way telecommuting can work long-term is if you maintain the productivity you have at the office. Track your time carefully. Compare projects you’re doing at home with similar projects you’ve done at the office. The time spent should be roughly the same. By keeping close track of your time, you can quickly spot potential problems and adjust accordingly.
5. Stick to your routine
It’s difficult enough to maintain a productive routine at the office, but it’s even more challenging to stick to a productive routine at home. Try to do the same things you do when you’re getting ready to drive into work. Wake up at the same time, get ready the same way, eat lunch at the same time, and “clock in” mentally at the same time you do at the office.
We’re all going through this difficult time together, and nothing will be unaffected by this pandemic. Here at Envoy, our goal is to do what we can to maintain the passion we have for making our clients successful while keeping our Envoy family as safe and healthy as possible.
Stay safe out there.